Let’s say you have a million dollars. Of course, you want to make it grow, right? You ask around…find the right financial advisor…discuss your options. When you are absolutely sure you are comfortable with your new portfolio, you make your investments and never think about that million ever again. Right? Of course not!
Savvy individuals monitor their investments. Whether it’s a daily check of the markets, connecting with a broker on a regular basis or just perusing quarterly dividend statements, any investment worth making is worth watching.
When it comes to making a green investment in new construction or retrofitting an existing building, not having a way to monitor energy usage and savings is akin to walking away from that million and never looking back.
Neil Chambers, CEO and founder of New York City-based Chambers Design, Inc., said, “Monitoring must be a critical part of any green effort. You spend a lot of money to install your system and, if you are not monitoring it, you have no way of knowing if you are really getting the most out of it.”
Many companies that choose green buildings rely on energy bills to determine return on investment of a sustainable energy system. Chambers said, however, that monthly energy bills tell customers one thing: how much money to pay. What they don’t tell you is why you are paying that much, how you can be saving more energy and money, and whether or not you are making the most of your original investment.
Simply put, energy monitoring is an essential piece of green design, he added. “By monitoring your system, you can be sure you are away of your daily usage and energy expenses. You can track use and forecast energy needs. You can plan financially because you can use historical data to know what your costs are this month compared to next and year over year.”
Further, energy monitoring not only allows you to be certain that you are getting what you paid for but also allows you to immediately know when the system is not working at its best.
The Liberty Science Center, a 295,000 square foot museum in Jersey City, N.J., is a great case in point. The facilities manager wanted to know exactly how his building’s systems were operating in an effort to save money and energy. LSC installed Noveda Technologies web-based energy monitoring energy systems and discovered overnight that the facility was consuming three times more energy than originally estimated. By readjusting the night settings, daily electrical consumption was reduced by approximately 11 percent. The museum’s energy bills were reduced more than $700,000 and its carbon emissions were cut by 40 percent after only one year of energy monitoring.
Govi Rao, CEO of New Jersey based Noveda, said LSC is one of a host of customers who are serious about energy and cost savings and leveraged the data collected by his company’s systems to the fullest extent. “The Noveda system has been deployed and has been continually used to achieve sustained cost savings and lowering energy usage. It has helped LSC understand where they can save and continues to do that month over month and year over year.”
“Most buildings use more than one type of energy. You may have solar, electricity, natural gas, steam and others. All of those energies cost different amounts of money. A good energy monitoring system will tell you how much of which type of energy you are using and when you are using it,” Chambers said.
If you see you are using a particular type of energy more than the others, you can make changes in usage. System tweaks are easy and can save you untold dollars. But if you aren’t monitoring your system, you are operating blind.
Going forward, Chambers added, regular energy system monitoring allows you to make savvy financial decisions in other areas of your business – to save even more green. For example:
• Spikes in energy usage at various times of the day may cause you to initiate company-wide policies aimed at saving more energy such as automatic lights or shutting off monitors when not in use.
• You can track CO2 levels with employee performance and absenteeism, since air quality is known to impact productivity.
• And, going forward, a review of energy usage trends can offer ideas for ways to make changes to the system at a later date.
While the concept of keeping an eye on a major investment may seem obvious, Chambers said the idea of energy monitoring is relatively new to the general public.
“People want to go green but they see the monitoring part of it as an extra cost that they don’t want to pay for,” he said. “Truth is, they just don’t understand the value of energy monitoring. It’s a very important extension of green design.”
Article by Bari Faye Siegel, a technology journalist with a passion for green initiatives and sustainability. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.